I’ve been meaning to write this sooner and I guess it’s taking me a while because I knew it would open up some wounds…and it is, but might as well get it out.
As you probably know, I’ve been posting a lot on Vashtie.Com as well as on Instagram for @VashtieDotCom…but not like I used to on my own @Vashtie Instagram, especially with Stories. The last few months have been a strain on all of us and while my introverted self is enjoying quarantine and maintaining a positive outlook, I did have a series of back-to-back experiences that put me in a very sad and contemplative space.
In May, I went to the hospital for what seemed like a bad UTI – something I have experienced many times over the years because I don’t like public bathrooms and tend to hold my urine. When I got there, they immediately found I had a high fever and that I was dehydrated. As they ran tests, they admitted me for a serious kidney infection – pyelonephritis.
I had, surprisingly, never been hospitalized before and here I was spending 5 days in the hospital trying to battle a high fever and painful chills. With all the self-education I have done on how emotions effect the body, I understand that experiences like this need to be processed and healed. I don’t think I’ve been able to express the trauma it was of being in that experience (especially during Covid-19). While it was confusing to be hurriedly admitted, disorienting to have 5 different doctors tend to me (some nice and others very un-nice), being poked and prodded with needles, blood being drawn around the clock, downing pills and drinking more water than I ever had in my life…I still have a great appreciation that I was able to get that care and realize it’s a fraction of what some other people must experience.
Instead of being able to digest the experience, maybe journal about it or cry while talking to trusted friends or loved ones…I was discharged from the hospital and came home to find Vladimir (my 10 year old companion kitty) in failing health. My husband Emil had taken him to the vet while I was in the hospital and they discovered a serious tumor. He hadn’t been eating for weeks, so he had already lost quite a bit of weight. The lovely doctor (Andrew Torchia) at Heart of Chelsea was helpful in explaining the situation to Emil, but it was clear that Vlad didn’t have many options.
Emil would shuttle from the hospital to our apartment, care-taking both me and Vladimir. I got to Facetime him while I was hospitalized, but knew he was suffering. I thought I would have time to figure it out when I got out of the hospital, but when I got home I found him hiding in my closet (something he only started doing since he had gotten sick)…I saw how weak and in pain he was. He came out to greet me for a little bit and I laid on the floor with him, but then he tried to hide back under my hanging clothes. On the car ride home, I had mentally prepared to not let him see me sad…and I did my best, but it was so excruciating to see him in that state.
After a call with my best friend Karl, who had a similar experience with his beloved, beautiful cat Tofu, he urged that I do right by Vlad and have him transitioned immediately. The thought shattered me and I cried uncontrollably, before gathering myself.
He recommended an animal clinic called Verg Brooklyn which is 24 hours. We immediately Uber’ed over and found a long line of people waiting outside for Covid precautions. I walked inside and tried to keep my composure to ask a question, but I broke into tears when I explaining what I was there for. They kindly let me in immediately. Shortly after, they explained the process…we would hand over Vlad to get a catheter in place for 2 later injections (1 to make him sleepy and the other to transition him). Then we would be reunited with Vlad in a private room to spend as much alone time with him as we needed. When we were ready, a veterinarian would come in and inject him two times.
I’m not sure I can detail the rest. All I can say is that he seemed afraid, as he normally was when he left home for any reason. I was doing my best to keep him feeling safe. When we were ready (rather, we didn’t want to prolong his pain), the lovely Vet Maria Jimenez came in. I held him in my arms while sobbing, telling him that I loved him and that he was my best friend. The first shot seemed to make him sleepy and the second quickly took his life from his body and he was in my arms the whole time. Feeling his body go limp is a horror I can’t explain and while I know it was the best thing to do – I still feel the guilt and shame that I couldn’t have helped him or that I did something to add to his deterioration.
Some people might find it strange that I could feel so connected to an animal, and while I can kind of understand where they are coming from – I also find it confusing that they don’t understand. Animals are more than “pets”, they become apart of your family. My life has been complicated and where most people found love and safety with family and parents – I did not. Instead, friends and animals became my family. Although it sounds harsh, I know the pain of losing Vlad will be worse than losing a few certain humans I know.
After that day, I turned off my phone for a week and returned to find the world in even more chaos. It kicked off with George Floyd and many many more tragic murders, world events and natural disasters. As I am trying to find ways to be of best service to my community, I’m still healing and moving forward.
Vladimir Nikolai Olig was and will forever be my best friend. We found each other in 2009, when I adopted him from a foster home in Queens. He was with me for every chapter of that near 11 year period, experiencing all the ups and downs with me. He even got to be featured in some of the work I did…
He also became inspiration for a lot of my design work…
*The 2012 Violette New York Vladenchy Shirt inspired by Givenchy’s Rottweiler Art and a Morgan Lane x Violette Sleep Mask with Vlad’s face (still available for sale).
Thank you to my husband for not only caring for me, but also for Vlad simultaneously. He commuted from our apartment to the hospital daily to be with both of us, was my emotional rock, my wailing wall, my therapist, and much much more.
Thank you to my friends and family who called, texted, sent flowers and cards. The love and support I felt during this time is something words could never describe. Special thanks to Karl Justin, Erik Lopez, Luz Tello, Amaya Heard, Kamilah Miller, Taryn and Noah Friedman, Joanna Hernandez, Corinne Cater, Janelle Kola& Family, Haley Kakadelas and Hourglass Cosmetics.
I especially want to say thank you to all of you who were on the journey with me and Vlad. Thank you to those of you who left comments and messages of condolences, but also shared stories of your own companion loss…you have no idea how it made me feel understood, while also letting me know I was not alone.
Also, here are some of the incredible messages and stories that you guys shared with me…which touched my heart, but ultimately helped me to heal. Thank you!